Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fringe 4.08: "Back to Where You've Never Been"

“So clearly, in the other universe, I’m a nutjob.”

“Back to Where You’ve Never Been” was an exciting episode of “Fringe,” and I think it would have served to make an excellent fall finale. I’m fairly certain that’s what the episode was intended to be when it was written, but baseball hiatus changed FOX’s schedule slightly more than originally anticipated back in October. So we get it as the mid-season premiere instead. It certainly sets up an interesting arc for what is likely to be the show’s final run (even “Grimm” gets better ratings…seriously). “Back to Where You’ve Never Been” was successful, in part, because it marked our first return to the Red Universe (aka “The Other Side”) since the Blue Universe went all Amber on us in last season’s finale. It was a little bit of welcome familiarity, really. The original universe of the show that we watched and loved for three seasons is gone (for now, at least), and the Red Universe has been around longer than the Amber Universe for sure. We know (and sometimes like) the players over there. Walternate is deliciously evil, Alt-livia and Alt-Lincoln kick ass and take names, and Alt-Astrid always comes through with a brilliant deduction. If I can’t have my regular Blue Universe (except for Peter, but he’s really Blue-Red considering his history) characters back just yet, I’ll take these folks!

So I probably ought to take a moment here and explain the system I’m using to refer to different versions of all the characters, because since this episode goes back to the Other Side, things get confusing. I generally refer to the universes by the color of the title sequence of the show when an episode is set in that universe. The title sequence was originally blue, so the original universe of the first three seasons is “Blue Universe.” The characters there are just referred to by their plain names. I’ve started using “the Other Side” and “Red Universe” interchangeably now, because when episodes were set on the Other Side last season, the title sequence was red. The current, Peter never existed, non-Other Side universe is the “Amber Universe” because the title sequence is now amber. I generally call Red Universe characters Alt and Amber Universe characters Amber (or nothing, if I get tired of writing out Amber). So there you go. Just goes to show how complicated the “Fringe” mythology has gotten!

Anyway, the episode opens with Peter dreaming about his old Blue Universe life. Walter is making banana pancakes, and Olivia is giving him a morning kiss at the breakfast table. When Peter wakes up, he decides that he needs to once again ask Amber Walter for help getting home. He just can’t take being away from “his” Olivia and Walter anymore. Walter refuses to help Peter. He’s convinced that wanting to “help” someone from another universe is what resulted in the death of Amber-Red Peter (as opposed to “our” Other Side Peter who didn’t die in Reiden Lake after Walter’s rescue attempt). Because of what happened to that version of Peter, Walter refuses to ever have any dealings with other universes again. Peter next seeks out Amber Olivia’s help. He wants her to help him cross over to the Other Side so he can ask Walternate for help instead. Lincoln stops by with some chicken soup for Olivia, and he’s a little peeved to see Peter already there. Olivia and Lincoln briefly flirt with the idea of using a crossover as an excuse to do some recon on the Red Universe and the new shapeshifters, but Peter shuts them down. He’s afraid that it would put his own mission, getting “home” to the Blue Universe, at risk because Walternate might think he has some nefarious purposes besides just going home.

What passes for the creepy/gross happening of the episode takes place on the Other Side. At a train station, a little kid thinks he sees two men having sex in a bathroom stall. His mom gets the police to investigate, and a big chase ensues. One of the guys was already dead when the police got to the bathroom, and the other guy gets hit by a truck. Both are pretty clearly the new breed of shapeshifters, and pretty messed up ones at that. Their faces are all mismatched and misshapen. At DoD headquarters, Walternate has Alt-Brandon bring him the shapeshifter tech that has been recovered. Brandon says he’s close to figuring out who created this model of shapeshifter, but Walternate says he want to finish the job himself. Meanwhile, Alt-livia and Alt-Lincoln get pulled off the train station case in favor of military guys. This switch-up is happening on Walternate’s orders. To make things look even more suspicious, at DoD headquarters, Walternate kicks people out of a lab to do his own autopsy of the train station shapeshifters. It is certainly looking more and more like Walternate has something big to hide.

Back in the Amber Universe, Operation: Get Peter a Meeting With Walternate is unfolding. Peter, Amber Olivia, and Amber Lincoln are at the opera house in New York and the Blue Universe crew used to cross over back at the end of season 2. Amber Lincoln is dressed up as the more badass Alt-Lincoln, which is really kind of precious and adorable, considering Amber Lincoln (and Original Recipe Lincoln as well) is a huge nerd. Peter and Lincoln are going to cross over while Olivia stays behind in the Amber opera house in case things go wrong. Peter and Lincoln’s arrival on the Other Side causes a fringe alert there, and of course Alt-livia and Alt-Lincoln are sent to the scene. Meanwhile, Lincoln manages to get Peter past the Liberty Island guard by using the old Wookie prisoner trick. I thought that was pretty badass. Lincoln reports his “Show Me” (ID card) as missing to cover for the fact that he doesn’t have one, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but it backfires when the real Alt-Lincoln tries to use his Show Me to start his car on the way back to Fringe HQ from the opera house. He calls it into HQ, and Amber Lincoln’s cover is blown.

Peter and Amber Lincoln are arrested, and while they’re being transported somewhere, the driver of the vehicle gets secret orders and pulls away from the rest of the convoy (including Alt-livia and Alt-Lincoln). He also shoots the other Fringe agent in the car. The WTF looks Peter and Amber Lincoln give each other as this is going down are rather priceless. The two Fringe agents end up killing each other, and Peter and Lincoln use the opportunity to make their escape. Peter says they’re going to do this “his way” now. Alt-livia and Alt-Lincoln find Amber Lincoln, but when the do, Peter isn’t with him. Lincoln tells them his conspiracy theory about how Walternate is behind the shapeshifters, and they agree to let Lincoln live long enough for them to check it out.

Meanwhile, Peter pays a visit to his mom. Well, this slightly altered universe’s version of his mom. She recognizes him immediately, even though nobody in this universe has seen Peter grow to adulthood. Unfortunately, before she saw Peter, she had suspected an intruder in her house and had set off an alarm. Troops arrive en masse, and by physically placing herself between them and Peter, she convinces the troops to take both of them to the DoD headquarters peacefully. At DoD, Peter and Walternate have a bit of a battle of wits showdown. Walternate calls Brandon in and zaps him. It was quite the WTF moment. Apparently, Brandon was actually a shapeshifter. Walternate claims that the government is being taken over by them. He promises to help Peter get back to the Blue Universe if Peter takes back the message to Amber Universe that the shapeshifters are invading Red Universe too.

While they check out his story, Alt-livia and Alt-Lincoln lock Amber Lincoln in a maintenance closet. I find that pretty amusing. They end up having to tell Broyles what’s going on, because he’s figured out part of the story already. That turns out to be very bad, because as soon as they leave his office, Broyles appears to call up shapeshifter HQ. That was the second big WTF moment of the episode. And the third soon followed. Over in Amber Universe, Olivia wakes up and sees an Observer (September?) in the opera house. She fears for her safety at first, but the Observer says he just has a message, and it’s clear that he’s been shot and is in really bad shape. He says that he has looked at all possible futures, and in every scenario, Olivia must die.

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